Newsflash: Why social media may fall behind TV journalism for some time

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It is a rare occasion but when it does happen it creates a ‘sit up and listen’ attitude amongst viewers. Newsflashes have been around for the best part of nearly seventy years across the globe, bringing viewers a breaking story. Conveying drama, theatre and enigma, these broadcasts have exposed the very best of television journalism. An ITV documentary, ‘Newsflash’, looked back at the era of when breaks in schedules were the order of the day. But in the day of 24 hour news and social media, is this concept now at risk of becoming a past tradition?

ITN’s Julie Etchingham narrated the insightful documentary and it certainly proved to be a hit amongst viewers. Newsflashes go beyond providing impartial information to the mass audience. In the documentary, the emotions of some of the most iconic journalists in the British industry were apparent. Martyn Lewis’ crackling voice when announcing the death of Princess Diana and Alastair Stewart’s real upset when discussing the Lockerbie bombing made it clear that journalism goes beyond collating the facts of a breaking news story. It is a real human life story. Having the responsibility of breaking such heart-rendering news is surely difficult. If anything, the emotion portrayed through our journalists, highlights how real journalism is. Such emotion can never be conveyed through social media.

The death of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 2002 and the invasion of Iraq are perhaps some of the last major stories to justify newsflashes before the emergence of online media. Social networks such as Twitter now announce breaking stories before they can even reach the airwaves. Online, news corporations have their own websites, which act as a 24 hour service to millions of users, as do mobile phone apps. Today, there is no need for newsflashes, since all of our breaking stories are available on demand 24 hours a day. However, there is still something very special about breaking into ordinary programming to bring viewers unfolding and at times dramatic footage.

The most recent unfolding event was that of the birth of the Royal Baby. Even I have criticised the enormous amount of coverage given. Yet, when looking back, the unfolding enigma and theatre on the steps of the Lindo Wing at Paddington was far from a boring and un-interesting broadcast. From the announcement of the birth to the moments the new parents and their child left the hospital, the world and its media followed extensively the story break. Like many others who have spoken, the extended newsflashes on public and commercial broadcasters were gripping. There was something genuinely exciting about seeing first-hand the pictures of our new heir to the throne. The joy amongst journalists, including the BBC’s Peter Hunt and ITV’s Tim Ewart, was clear; both channels rushed to get the best images and best guests to keep viewers on side. Dedication, passion and heart for a story you simply cannot grasp from an online piece of journalism.

It is incredibly easy to understand that this and so many other stories of recent times could have simply unfolded online. The majority have access to a computer system. But that is not how journalism works. Online journalists are some of the best in the business, but journalism is about connections. Connections with guests, connecting with the story and connecting with the viewer. Television is a great medium to achieve the outcome of this formula. Television is a truly remarkable source of creating tension, creating drama and creating the news. Despite how many may ‘retweet’ or comment on a story, there is little excitement and sense of importance created.

Whilst I openly support television journalism, is there any evidence to suggest that soon social media will be the clear dominant force? There is clear evidence to suggest that social media is heavily breathing down the neck of our television journalists. On the BBC’s Breaking News Twitter account, there are over 7.7million followers. That is close, if not more, than the average rating for one of the main BBC One news bulletins. For those who don’t follow a news service account or attempt to avoid news online, it is a very difficult position. Given the amount of retweets per tweet made, nearly all users on Twitter are exposed to some form of news and information.

I readily admit that I use social media to keep up to date on news. Whether I’m working, away or elsewhere. But there is something quintessentially isolate about a computer generated piece of news. Yes, there is somebody at the other end inputting the news, but they are not a familiar face. The beauty with television journalism is trust. Many journalists have been on screen for years and build rapports with viewers. As you read a tweet about breaking news, it is objective and distant. If the BBC’s business expert Robert Peston announces a breaking piece of financial news, viewers trust his words, they understand and relate to his words, because of his familiarity.

The ‘Newsflash’ programme highlighted much of the programmes that have literally stopped people in their tracks. The September 11th Attacks, The Gulf War and the death of Michael Jackson, amongst others. There is something very special indeed about a breaking news story. It is very difficult to explain, but television journalists do a grand job of keeping viewers informed and enticed. On that note, television journalism still remains at the top of its game. Social media is a convenience but broadcast journalism brings reality and humanisation to a gripping theatrical piece of news.

Visit the ITV Player to see ‘Newsflash’ narrated by Julie Etchingham

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PROFILE: David Dimbleby

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In the world of news and current affairs, past and present, there has always been one man who presides over national events – jubilees, funerals, weddings, general elections and so on. That man is David Dimbleby.

Born in 1938, Dimbleby was born into a family of journalists and broadcasters. His father, Richard, was one of the most recognisable figures in the broadcasting industry. Today, David, and brother, Jonathan, remain at the centre of national events.

David joined the BBC as a news reporter in Bristol during the 1960’s. Some of the programmes and films that he was a part of became the heart of intense debate between the BBC and the political parties, in particular the Labour Party, during a documentary which is claimed to have ridiculed the opposition. He later became the presenter of Panorama – one of the BBC’s longest running programmes, using the best investigative journalism to uncover truth and investigations into many a topic, including governments, economies, war crisis’ and famine on a global scale. David’s father had previously presented the programme.

Since 1979, David Dimbleby has been the face of one the most exciting nights in broadcasting – Election Night. The long running, overnight coverage, often broadcasting well into the following day has been presented by Dimbleby successfully over the past seven General Elections. His knowledge, passion and interest certainly comes across in his stark interviews with political leaders and journalists bringing the results. Dimbleby has lived through many previous elections and governments and uses his own experiences of leaders and parties gone by to provide a very personal yet professional approach in the huge 12+ hour broadcast.

David Dimbleby stands over the BBC's Election Night studio.

David Dimbleby stands over the BBC’s Election Night studio.

As well as the famous Election Night coverage, David Dimbleby is also known as a national broadcaster, presenting and commentating on national events. In the past these have included The Trooping the Colour, State Opening of Parliament, Funerals of Princess Diana and The Queen Mother and anchoring the Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002. He will return in providing coverage of the funeral of Baroness Thatcher on Wednesday 17th April 2013. His knowledge of royalty, governments and the changes society has undergone makes him the ideal choice for covering the events which bring viewers to a collective halt and broadcasting to the millions of viewers in the UK and accross the globe.

Today, he is best known for his role as the anchor, presenter and chairman of the BBC’s flagship debate programme, Question Time. He has been in this role since 1994 and 19 years on, his command is still apparent on the panel and feared by many politicians. Dimbleby’s nature as a political broadcaster and as a man of outstanding knowledge allows him to question the politicians, often using evidence to contradict what a member of the panel has said. David describes himself as the “chairman” and often reminds the panel that he is in charge. He presents himself as supportive to the audience who ask the question through his further interrogation. One thing which is admirable in this role is the balance that Dimbleby provides. His attitude of respecting the speaker in turn for respect of him is what makes the show flow so well. “Dimblebot”, as he is known to many fans on Twitter, allows the speaker to have their say and prevent other panel members from interrupting or breaking the ‘house rules’. It is Dimbleby’s comradeship which has made Question Time one of the most watched and recognisable political programmes on television.

Bouncing off his extraordinary relationship with British politics, he hosted the BBC’s first ever live Election TV Debate in 2010 where the three main party leaders stood shoulder to shoulder in persuading the public why they should vote for them. It was an exciting month on the election campaign, and as chief anchor, Dimbleby once again proved why he is one of the most recognisable and respectable faces in British Broadcasting.

David Dimbleby has been at the centre of historic events for over fifty years. His intellect, knowledge and passion for journalism and broadcasting is what comes across most in his respectable and professional presentation. In recent years, there has been a shunt of Dimbleby, in particular The Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012. David, however, will remain at the heart of future political events, general elections and hopefully the national events that follow in the future.

Journalism – How hard can it be ?

The answer is very. Journalism is a career vocation which allows an individual to express interests in a particular area through the excitement of writing and broadcasting. As an aspiring journalist myself, I love the prospect of an audience viewing and taking an interest in something that I have produced.

I am a strong believer that experience of the industry is vital and perhaps more important than a degree or professional qualification. Like anything, if you start at the bottom and work your way up, you can learn the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of the job and work on previous knowledge. I have had experience with two local newspapers in the North West of England, one of which, the Liverpool Echo, I am returning to in May for another placement. I have also had a successful application to gain experience with ITN News in London, something I am hoping to pursue later in the year. Combined with my experience in college, such as an editorial role with the newsletter, A Level investigations into newspaper language and media productions, I feel I am already off the starting base.

Work experience is an impressive starting point for any career – unpaid work for a career of interest will go someway with any employer. Many journalists, such as those with the BBC, ITV and other organisations will openly speak of how they have got to their current role. Many of their routes follow a similar route of degrees/qualifications before joining these organisations. I am currently studying for a degree, part-time, whilst also pursuing work experience which I hope will help me one day tell the story of how I managed to become a respected journalist.

There are many employers who don’t always respond to requests of work experience, whilst unsuccessful applications can be disheartening. Despite this, determination and persistence is absolutely vital to succeed. I am determined to gain successful applications and I am determined to improve my skills and begin a career in the media industry. Persistence is something that is needed to keep an energetic approach to taking on new challenges.

So those are just a few of my thoughts on how to approach a career in the media and journalism. Everyone is at different levels when it comes to pursuing their aspirations. Through my personal knowledge, journalists are very supportive toward those who wish to pursue a similar line of career; they will offer advice and assistance in any possible way they can.

PROFILE: Sir Trevor McDonald

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He is quite possibly the most recognisable face in British television news. The word ‘retirement’ is not one to be used when it comes to Sir Trevor McDonald. There are many people who inspire me when it comes to journalism and a career in the media. Sir Trevor is at the top of that list.

McDonald made history by becoming the first black newsreader in the UK, presenting with Independent Television News –ITN. His career, though, began in Trinidad during the 1960’s before producing programmes for BBC Radio. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that Trevor became a general news reporter for ITN, later becoming a sports correspondent and further developing as an expert in international politics.

When it came to presenting news programmes, Sir Trevor worked for a short time with Channel 4 News, before working on the Early Evening News and ultimately presenting the flagship News at Ten and weekday late news between the late 1980’s and 2005. Ask anybody about their first thoughts when they think of News at Ten and Sir Trevor McDonald will be a part of that.
In 2005, Sir Trevor retired for the first time, however continued to host Tonight with Trevor McDonald, a weekly documentary series investigating an individual news and current affairs topic every week. However, in 2008, the return of the News to ten o’clock also saw the then 68 year old return to prime time news, before his second retirement within the year.

Following his retirement from news altogether, Sir Trevor ventured into documentary making with productions including The Secret Caribbean and The Mighty Mississippi. His courteous attitude and genuine passion for other people’s cultures and views provided a real insight into parts of the world through different eyes. The most recent project Trevor has worked on was a ratings success for ITV.

Inside Death Row was broadcast in January 2013 and followed Sir Trevor McDonald investigating the so called “death row” in the United States – a high detention security prison with the most violent inmates on the waiting list for the death penalty. In interviews beforehand, McDonald, now 73, stated how he disagreed with the death penalty, yet the documentary was an eye opening and insightful look at a system unfamiliar in Britain. The way in which McDonald conducted himself in his interviews with prison inmates and staff did, to some extent, show how he felt toward the system, however the genuine interest and passion for investigative journalism also counter balanced with allowing the inmates and staff to have their say. It was the genuine character of Sir Trevor McDonald which provided the success for ITV, a reliable and enthusiastic journalist, providing an unbiased and open minded approach to other world systems.

As a professional and as a man, Sir Trevor McDonald, was and still remains a heartbeat of British news. His famous tone of voice, powerful and instantly recognisable, has sometimes been the butt of jokes. He has interviewed figures including heads of states, including presidents, prime ministers and ordinary people at the centre of extraordinary news. His passionate, caring and professional approach comes across in a way that shows Sir Trevor to be worthy of his knighthood for services to broadcasting. A genuine thirst for news and journalism is what Sir Trevor stands for and his career and character is one to aspire to.

A fond farewell to Television Centre ?

Lights out at 'TVC'.

Lights out at ‘TVC’.

It is hard to imagine but at one point in time the majority of the BBC’s central departments such as news, sport and drama were all based under one iconic roof – Television Centre. Now, however, after 54 years at the heart of West London and as a symbol of the BBC, the building is to close, being sold for redevelopment. When I first heard the news, I admit I did question the decision. Why would the national broadcaster of Great Britain close one of the most recognisable buildings in the country? However, since that decision, the BBC has changed and now the corporation has based various departments around the UK.

Last Sunday saw the final BBC News bulletin come live from Television Centre, before they themselves relocated to a new home. But it isn’t the first relocation. Departments such as drama and comedy have moved to locations including Cardiff and Glasgow, whilst the biggest relocation of BBC departments has been to the new Media City UK in Salford, where BBC Sport, Breakfast and CBBC (amongst others) are now based. I can say I have had the pleasure of visiting Media City and it is a brilliant working environment to be a part of. The modern surroundings, leisure attractions and the Manchester Ship Canal offer an unrivalled media environment.

The new buildings are large, modern and a reflection of the new era for the BBC. The open plan and ‘airy’ atmosphere in Quay House allow BBC Sport, BBC Breakfast, Radio 5 Live and other departments to work together in a building which offers excitement and evidence of the new digital era for media innovation. It is these new buildings and relocations which will be the new history of the BBC. Official figures already show that tourism in Salford is up for the seventh year on the row, with visitors travelling to see the new redevelopment.

It is the relocation of the broadcaster and indeed other media organisations which are transforming the media industry. Away from the London centric representation that has portrayed the BBC in the past, the corporation is now one which is based and created from all corners of the UK. Not only is money being saved for the corporation but new talent is being discovered from around the United Kingdom.

Departments such as BBC News will remain in London, at the new headquarters at New Broadcasting House, for obvious reasons. The selling of possibly the most iconic media building in the UK may lead you to ask where some of the programmes previously filmed at ‘TVC’ will be rehomed. Well, although the centre is being redeveloped and sold on, some of the larger TV studios will remain. The BBC, alongside other broadcasters and independent companies will be able to hire out or rent the studio – a cheaper alternative than owning the buildings than house the studios. This method of filming is already in place at “The Studios” in Salford where the BBC does not own studios for the likes of CBBC and Match of the Day. However, the BBC does have an increased stake than other broadcasters and companies, so that regular programmes can be permanently based and filmed.

So when I think back to the news that Television Centre will be closed, yes it will be sad to see the national broadcaster leave their iconic home. However, the next era of the BBC is to be created around the UK in new and plush working environments. But will any of these rival the iconic ring in West London? Only history will tell.